SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK WARNER ATTEMPT TO PASS ESSENTIAL MEDICAID LEGISLATION AMID WORSENING PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

~ This effort comes as the U.S. surpasses four million COVID-19 cases ~

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WASHINGTON Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) took to the Senate floor to request immediate passage of the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act to allow states including Virginia to further benefit from expanding Medicaid, and to further incentivize states who have not yet expanded to do so. Immediately after Sen. Warner requested to pass the SAME Act by unanimous consent, Senate Republican objected and thereby blocked the immediate passage of this crucial legislation, which would have brought in additional federal Medicaid dollars for states during the greatest public health crisis in generations.

Sen. Warners request comes as the nation surpasses four million COVID-19 cases and Americans find themselves increasingly without health care after having lost their jobs and their employment-connected benefits.

I can think of no better time to pass this legislation than right now, when more than 5 million Americans find themselves having lost their health care coverage in the last three months alone. In fact, some reports actually estimate that nearly 27 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance and are now in jeopardy of becoming uninsured, Sen. Warner said on the floor. Estimates show that if every state were to expand its Medicaid program, about 3 million additional Americans would have health care coverage. This is not a political argument nor a philosophical exercise this legislation has a real-world impact and its clear that Americans want and need this legislation to pass.

He continued, Across our nation, Americans are making clear they want expanded access to health coverage and Congress needs to listen. With all due respect to my Republican colleagues, you cant say you want to help Americans in this devastating time and simultaneously oppose this bill, which would do just that. As we stand here in this chamber, we have the privilege of knowing that we and our families have access to the health care coverage we need. That if anything were to go wrong, we would be covered. So why shouldnt we ensure that same access for more Americans?

The SAME Act would allow states like Virginia that expanded Medicaid after 2014 to receive the same full federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Under this legislation, the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid would also be eligible for increased federal funds once they choose to expand the program. 

The Affordable Care Act provides financial support to states that have expanded their existing Medicaid programs to provide healthcare coverage to all individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government covers the full cost of expansion for three years, phasing down to a 90 percent match rate for the sixth year of the expansion and in subsequent years. Currently, states choosing to expand coverage after 2014 do not receive the same federal matching rates as those that expanded immediately. This is due to the Supreme Courts holding in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius, which made expansion optional for states, despite intentions to make Medicaid expansion national in 2014. The SAME Act would ensure that any states that expand Medicaid receive an equal level of federal funding for the expansion, regardless of when they chose to expand.

In his remarks, Sen. Warner noted the $14,000 median cost of a COVID-19-related hospitalization and stressed this cost could mean bankruptcy for the 30 million Americans without health insurance. 

I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to do right by their constituents and the millions of Americans that need help. So today, I ask you to come together to support the SAME Act, stressed Sen. Warner. No one should go bankrupt because they got sick and sought medical care. But more importantly, no one should go bankrupt when this legislative body has the opportunity to act. Lets do the right thing here put politics aside and pass this commonsense legislation.

Sen. Warners floor remarks as originally prepared for delivery are available below:

Madam President, I rise today to talk about an issue that is weighing on too many American families right now, and thats access to health care coverage. 

Were in the midst of the greatest public health crisis in generations. And this unprecedented time calls for equally unprecedented action from this Congress.  

Today, I come to the floor to pass legislation I introduced along with Senator Doug Jones and several of our colleagues legislation that could provide access to quality and affordable health care coverage for millions of Americans.

To be clear, the SAME Act is the bill Ive been pushing for more than three years. This bill was a good idea before this pandemic, but the need for it has become even greater in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The SAME Act would ensure that states like Virginia that have expanded their Medicaid programs to serve more Americans can get their fair share of federal matching dollars. It would also incentivize additional states who havent yet expanded Medicaid to expand this critical program to millions more Americans.

I can think of no better time to pass this legislation than right now, when more than 5 million Americans find themselves having lost their health care coverage in the last three months alone.

In fact, some reports actually estimate that nearly 27 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance and are now in jeopardy of becoming uninsured.

My legislation would provide much-needed financial support to states that are seeing an increase in Medicaid enrollment, as folks face the fallout of this crisis. And for those millions of people, the SAME Act would provide a significant lifeline.

Estimates show that if every state were to expand its Medicaid program, about 3 million additional Americans would have health care coverage.

This is not a political argument nor a philosophical exercise this legislation has a real-world impact and its clear that Americans want and need this legislation to pass. 

Take Oklahoma, for example. Just a few weeks ago, Oklahomans voted to expand their Medicaid program to provide broader access to coverage. We have seen similar actions from citizens in Utah, Maine, Idaho, and others. 

Across our nation Americans are making clear they want expanded access to health coverage and Congress needs to listen.

With all due respect to my Republican colleagues, you cant say you want to help Americans in this devastating time and simultaneously oppose this bill, which would do just that. 

As we stand here in this chamber, we have the privilege of knowing that we and our families have access to the health care coverage we need. That if anything were to go wrong, we would be covered. So why shouldnt we ensure that same access for more Americans?

The median cost of a hospitalization due to COVID-19 is $14,000. For Americans without health insurance the nearly 30 million and growing that could mean losing their house or their car It could mean bankruptcy. 

I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to do right by their constituents and the millions of Americans that need help. So today, I ask you to come together to support the SAME Act.

No one should go bankrupt because they got sick and sought medical care. But more importantly, no one should go bankrupt when this legislative body has the opportunity to act. 

Lets do the right thing here put politics aside and pass this commonsense legislation. Thank you.